Probable Starting Pitchers Friday vs. Connecticut: Brad Schreiber (Jr, RHP) vs. UConn's Anthony Marzi (Jr, LHP)
Saturday vs. South Florida: Jordan Minch (Fr, LHP) vs. USF's Joey Lovecchio (Sr, RHP)
Sunday vs. Louisville: Kyle Wood (RS-Fr, LHP) vs. U of L's Jared Ruxer (So, RHP)
Sunday vs. Connecticut: Robert Ramer (Sr, RHP) vs. UConn's Brian Ward (Jr, LHP)
Weekend Weather Forecast for Pinellas County, Fla. Friday: 68 degrees, 70 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 68 degrees, clear skies
Sunday: 56 degrees, clear skies
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue baseball begins its new campaign against three of the top teams in the Big East Conference in 2012, playing four games in three days under the fair skies of Florida during its fifth consecutive season-opening weekend at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.
The Boilermakers (45-14 in 2012) will be the visiting team on the scoreboard in their two schedule games against Connecticut (31-27-1 in 2012) and the designated home team in their contests against South Florida (38-22 in 2012) and No. 4 Louisville (41-22 in 2012).
Friday's season opener versus UConn is slated for 4 p.m. at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training home field in Dunedin, Fla. Purdue and South Florida will square off under the lights Saturday evening at Bright House Field, the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training home field in Clearwater, Fla. Sunday, the Boilers will play a doubleheader at Al Lang Stadium along the shoreline in downtown St. Petersburg, taking on Louisville at 10 a.m. and UConn at 1 p.m.
Purdue has played at all three stadiums at least once in its previous 14 games at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge the last four seasons. Unlike seasons past when the Challenge featured numerous teams from both conferences, the Big Ten will be represented by only Indiana and Purdue this season. The teams that finished one-two in the Big Ten standings a year ago take on the Big East opponents that finished first (Louisville), third (South Florida) and fifth (Connecticut) in 2012.
Louisville is also scheduled to play Purdue and Indiana in midweek action later this spring. The Boilermakers visit the Cardinals' Jim Patterson Stadium March 13 during the spring break trip.
The Boilermakers kick started their rise into the national rankings with their 3-0 showing at the 2012 Big East/Big Ten Challenge. However, more true freshmen (12) are scheduled to travel this weekend than returning players (11) that were part of the 28-man roster than went to Florida for the season-opening weekend a year ago.
Stephen Talbott (six), Brad Schreiber (five), Angelo Cianfrocco (four) and Jake Hansen (two) are the only active Boilers that have started games at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. All four were in the lineup in the 2011 Challenge win against Pittsburgh. Schreiber struck out seven while surrendering only two earned runs over six innings in his first career weekend start. Talbott, Cianfrocco and Hansen each had at least one hit.
Connecticut is expected to start a pair of left-handers against Purdue this weekend, neither pitcher appearing in the Purdue-UConn games at the Challenge the last two seasons. Opening day starter Anthony Marzi had just a 3-8 record a year ago despite a compiling a 2.55 ERA and .207 batting average against. Brian Ward also had three wins despite an ERA of three runs higher (5.57). Big East Preseason Player of the Year LJ Mazzilli, the son of MLB veteran and former Big League manager Lee Mazzilli, returned for his senior season at Connecticut even after being selected in the ninth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He homered against Purdue last season.
South Florida finished just one game behind Big East co-champions Louisville and St. John's a year ago. The Bulls batted only .255 as a team but had a strong pitching staff (3.50 team ERA) and were solid defensively (.971 fielding percentage). Probable starter Joey Lovecchio successfully pitched to contact, earning eight wins while striking out 45 and walking only 17 in 79 innings during his first year with the program as junior college transfer. Offensively, James Ramsay and Alex Mendez are both back after sharing the team-lead with 32 RBI a year ago.
Louisville has announced it will start the same starting pitcher it threw in the 2012 home opener at Lambert Field, a 10-inning pitcher's duel won by the Boilers on Talbott's walk-off single. Indianapolis native Jared Ruxer was a high school teammate of Brandon Krieg at Lawrence Central. He finished his freshman season in the U of L weekend rotation, going 8-3 with a 3.38 ERA in his first year with the Cardinals. He too pitched to contact, tallying 32 strikeouts versus 15 walks in 77 1/3 innings.
Offensively for U of L, infielders Ty Young and Nick Ratajczak return after both players batted over .340 with on-base percentages over .460. They combined for 49 of Louisville's 115 hit batters. Young also hit six home runs and stole 15 bases. Ratajczak struck out only nine times in 245 at-bats.
The Boilermakers also scheduled to play four games and take on another Top Five team in the Baseball America preseason poll next weekend in Starkville, Miss. Purdue, No. 5 Mississippi State and Samford will comprise the three-team field at the Diamond Classic at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Miss. All three teams qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Purdue at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge 2012 2/18 vs. Connecticut - W, 9-4
2/18 vs. Cincinnati - W, 6-0
2/19 vs. Notre Dame - W, 15-8
2011 2/26 vs. #9 Connecticut - W, 10-2
2/27 vs. Notre Dame - L, 19-2
2/28 vs. #30 Pittsburgh - W, 5-3
2010 2/26 vs. Villanova - L, 13-5
2/27 vs. Cincinnati - L, 7-6
2/27 vs. Rutgers - L, 6-5
3/1 vs. West Virginia - L, 18-14
2009 2/20 vs. Cincinnati - W, 11-10
2/21 vs. Michigan  - L, 4-3
2/21 vs. South Florida - L, 7-5
2/22 vs. Notre Dame  - L, 9-4
Series History vs. Connecticut (2012: 31-27-1, 16-11 Big East - T-5th) All Time: Purdue leads 3-0
All-Time at Big East/Big Ten: Purdue leads 2-0
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs UConn: Purdue leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Purdue 10, UConn 2 (2012 in St. Peterburg, Fla.)
Last Meeting in Dunedin: Purdue 10, #9 UConn 2 (2011)
Series History vs. South Florida (2012: 38-22, 17-10 Big East - T-3rd) All-Time: Purdue leads 2-1
All-Time at Big East/Big Ten: USF leads 1-0
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs USF: USF leads 1-0
Last Meeting: USF 7, Purdue 5 (2009 in Clearwater, Fla.)
Last Purdue Win: Purdue 3, USF 2 (1995 in Tampa, Fla.)
Series History vs. Louisville (41-22, 18-9 Big East - T-1st) All-Time: Purdue leads 6-5
All-Time at Big East/Big Ten: First Meeting
Purdue Under Doug Schreiber vs U of L: Tied 2-2
Last Meeting: #19 Purdue 2, #15 Louisville 1 (10 innings, 2012 in West Lafayette)
The Last Meeting
February 18, 2012
Clearwater, Fla. (Walter Fuller Complex)